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SLATE: Weekly honors for both squads

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Plus some football stuff.

NCAA Basketball: Kansas State at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Basketball

First off, we’d like to apologize to our loyal community. Due to a staff miscommunication, we were unable to provide our normal recap for last Saturday’s game. But thanks for sticking with us anyway!

So Saturday, well, that was fun. The WeberCats went to Fort Worth an came away with a near wire-to-wire victory over TCU. Your Kansas State Wildcats completed a 75-63 victory Saturday night thanks to a balanced scoring attack led by Nijel Pack and his game-high 20 points, but also by Mark Smith’s impressive 16-point, 10-rebound double-double, his sixth of the season. The Cats ended up with four guys in double-figures, as Mike McGuirl dropped in 13 and Markquis Nowell had 14 and 6 assists. TCU was without the services of star point guard Mike Miles, who has been battling a wrist injury of late, but the biggest part of the win for the Cats may have been the rebounding effort against TCU, the best rebounding team in the league. Sure, TCU still won the battle, but only barely, recording just three more rebounds than K-State. With the win, the Cats improve to 12-10 and 4-6 in Big 12 play, and have put themselves back in a position to be considered in the bubble discussion for the NCAA Tournament.

Next up is a Wednesday night game against Baylor in Bramlage, where the Wildcats will face a Bears squad reeling from an absolute obliteration in Lawrence on Saturday afternoon. Cats and Bears play at 7pm CST on Big 12 Now on ESPN+. The Cats will hope that their new approach to the season will help them stay on track against the Bears, and further into this second-half of the season.

After he posted consecutive 20-point performances last week, Nijel Pack was named Big 12 Player of the Week, his second such honor this season. This past week he averaged 21 points on 59.3% (16-of-27) shooting, including a blazing 53.8% (7-of-13) from behind the 3pt line. He also avareaged 3.5 rebounds, 3.5 steals, and 2.5 assists in over 36 minutes per game of work. Of course the highlight is definitely the game-winning 3pt make in the final seconds against Oklahoma State on Wednesday, but his steady shooting is opening the floor for other Wildcats to score. With his second nod, Pack became just the 8th player in school history to earn more than one Big 12 PotW nod in the same season, a list that somewhat surprisingly doesn’t include any of the “Big 3” from the 2019 Big 12 Title team.

It was a pretty good weekend over on the women’s side as well, as the MittieCats pulled out to a 14-2 lead on the way to an 82-75 wire-to-wire victory over Texas Tech in Bramlage, in front of a season high crowd of 5,588. The Wildcats, now 17-6 and 7-4 in Big 12 play, were led by a resurgent Ayoka Lee, whose team-high 31 points also included her 1,500th of her Wildcat career. Lee became the first Wildcat to hit both the 1,000 and 1,500 point marks in the same season. But it wasn’t just Lee, as the Glenn twins combined for 30 points of their own, and Serena Sundell dropped in a dozen. Included in the team effort Sundell dished 7 assists to just two turnovers and on top of Jaelyn Glenn’s 16 points, she also recorded six steals and a block.

But it wasn’t Jaelyn who picked up hardware for the week, rather is was sister Brylee who picked up this week’s Big 12 Freshman of the Week honors, her third of the season, and seventh for the trio of Wildcats freshmen. Brylee averaged 16.5 ppg last week on 56.5% (13-of-23) shooting, including a really nice 40% from behind the 3pt line, and added in averaging 3 assists, 2.5 rebounds, and 2.0 steals for the week. Brylee scored 14 against Tech, but tied her career high with 19 against Iowa State in Ames earlier in the week.

Next up for the Cats is the start of a two-game road trip, as they will be headed to Waco to face a No. 10/12 Bears squad with a nearly identical record, but much more love from the poll voters. Wednesday night’s game is at 7pm CST and, like the men, will be on Big 12 Now on ESPN+. Get ready to have two screens set up.

The K-State women have also been selected to play in the 2022 U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam next November, joining a field that includes Arkansas, Clemson, Georgia, Northern Arizona, Seton Hall, VCU, and Wisconsin. This will be K-State’s third-ever appearance in the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam (2001, 2016). The Wildcats own a 5-1 record in its six games on the island, winning the 2016 event.

Football

Officially, seven “super-seniors” are returning to K-State, using their COVID year for one more go at Wildcats football. Those guys are: Dawson Delforge (offensive line), Robert Hentz (defensive tackle), Eli Huggins (defensive tackle), Cincere Mason (defensive back), Chabastin Taylor (wide receiver), Kade Warner (wide receiver), Ty Zentner (punter/kicker). Huggins is probably the biggest name of the group, and provides a valuable presence in the interior of the defensive line as a returning starter, but having Hentz back is almost as important for a group that features two seniors and a bunch of young players.

And I’ll give Kellis a pass here because it would be easy to overlook, but possibly the biggest name in that article was mentioned nonchalantly at the bottom in the group of walk-ons. Running back La’James White has decided to walk-on after spending his freshman season at Air Force. White is from KC, and went to KC-Piper until his senior year and then transferred to St. James Academy. Dude was a beast, running all over Ark City in the 2020 4A state title game (that I witnessed personally), including 5 TDs. He also ran all over 4A powerhouse Bishop Miege in the game before. There are a lot of comparisons to Darren Sproles, but this kid looks like a slightly taller clone. 5’9” and 175lbs, he’s got huge legs and competed in powerlifting in high school. He’s got a quick burst and good top-end speed (not elite, but still darn fast). K-State wanted him to walk-on last year, but chose to go to Air Force where he redshirted. He’s got the potential to really be something special.

We haven’t had a Slate since the announcement, but you have surely heard that Chris Klieman filled the last open spot on his staff with the hiring of Thad Ward to the position of Wide Receivers coach. Ward comes to K-State after spending the last three years at Temple, and Illinois before that. He’s spent most of his coaching time in the Midwest and Northeast, but is originally from Florida and played at UCF, and is expected to help maintain recruiting connections in the Sunshine State.